We interviewed Harvey High School’s methods and resource teacher, Erika Hallett, about how Assistive Technology has affected her school, and how her students’ knowledge and adoption of Assistive Technology has positively affected their ability to transition from high school into post-secondary education, and beyond.
Q. Can you give us a picture of what things were like in the classroom before you had access to Assistive Technology?
A. Before having Assistive Technology, students who struggled academically were often times provided with help that took away from their independence. Educational Assistants and/or the teacher would either be working with those students one on one, or be pulling them from the regular classroom setting to help them with their academics.
Q. What are some examples of disabilities that you deal with in the classroom daily?
A. The most common examples of disabilities that I deal with in the classroom would have to be any Learning Disability in reading. I have taught many low readers or specifically students that have a diagnosis of a reading disability that struggle with decoding written text. Often times the comprehension is there, but their decoding skills are weak, making it difficult for these students to do independent reading activities.
Q. How has the use of Assistive Technology affected the confidence of the children in the classroom?
A. I would have to say that seeing students who use assistive technology to gain such a strong confidence in themselves is the most rewarding part of my job. I have watched students who initially were on modified plans, come off of those plans and become just an accommodated student. On a daily basis students discuss with me, and other teachers in the building, how happy they are to have the technology and how much of a difference it has made with not only their academics, but their self-esteem.
Q. What are some of your favorite go-to apps?
A. Pages(new window) –Like word, can use the speech to text, text to speech option, user friendly. Flashcards(new window) – Allows students to gain some studying strategies. Notability(new window) – Excellent for conferencing with students, particularly in Math, Biology, Physics, Chemistry etc, because it allows for you to draw the steps in equations and record at the same time.
Flashcardlet(new window) (Free) Key Features: Create your own flash cards
A great study aid for visual learners, Flashcards gives you the ability to create and modify your own custom deck of flash cards or downloaded a pre-existing one to help review and study your materials. Though not available in French this apps can be used with French content. Note: Ad-free version costs $2.99.
Q. Was it difficult for the teachers to become proficient with the Assistive Technology?
A. We have such a great staff that want to accommodate all of our students’ needs; therefore it did not take long for them to buy into wanting to be trained effectively on all assistive technology. It is difficult at first, because technology is ever changing, but after training sessions, in-services, professional development and the ability to contact Neil Squire Society to answer questions at any time, made this process easier.
Q. Do you feel that having access to Assistive Technology makes you a better teacher?
A. 100% yes. It allows for me to plan for these students to be independent within my classroom. I also use their assistive technology within my instructional practices, which I feel lessens the “stigma” about using Assistive Technology.
Q. Do you feel that your students’ familiarity with Assistive Technology is something that impacts their ability to smoothly transition into post-secondary education?
A. Yes, I do feel that their familiarity with Assistive Technology helps them smoothly transition into post-secondary because of their new level of confidence. Students who receive AT are struggling in some sort of area and are trained on the Assistive Technology to help them with these struggles. They gain confidence by understanding that the Assistive Technology is just a “tool” that helps them with their weaknesses, and I have seen the Assistive Technology become one of their strengths. This allows them to have the confidence to go into their choice of post-secondary with confidence in themselves, their skills, and their independence.
Q. What would you like to see in the future in terms of Assistive Technology in the classroom?
A. It would be my dream for every student in the classroom to be able to use an electronic device in the classroom such as a surface Pro or iPad. I feel that it allows for greater independence and keeps the students engaged in their work.
Notability(new window) ($5.99) Key Features: Type or hand-write notes, record and sync audio
Notability is a powerful yet simple note-taking app that allows you to take notes how YOU want. Allowing you to type or hand write your notes while recording and syncing the audio. It also allows you to import web pages and PDFs, annotate those documents, draw diagrams, take pictures, and more. Available in French